THE LADY IN THE VAN (2015)
Nicholas Hytner film based on playwright Alan Bennett’s screenplay which in turn was based on his memoir and play of the same name, details the story of a homeless elderly woman, Mary Shepherd, who parked her van in Mr. Bennett’s driveway temporarily only to stay fifteen years. In many ways a beautiful story of tolerance of an individual who was clearly emotionally troubled, I never the less found it a bit ponderous and laborious at times to sit through. Seeing the magnificent Maggie Smith playing a homeless and very down on her luck woman is such a sharp contrast to the Dowager Countess of Grantham that she has been playing on DOWNTON ABBEY for the past six seasons, but is to her credit as the great actress that she is. Alex Jennings plays Alan Bennett who is shown in dual mode through most of the film, with his counterpart, namely himself, sharply opposed to her being a part of his life. It’s an interesting concept, but I’m not sure it works at all times. It should be pointed out that this is the second time Maggie Smith has played this role, first on stage in the original production and then in a BBC Radio adaptation. Mr. Bennett also is dealing with his aging mother who is eventually placed in a rest home suffering from dementia and the issue of his homosexuality which is very sensitively dealt with both compassion and humor throughout the film. Much support is lent by an excellent cast that includes Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent, and Roger Allam.